Measles Tests Required for Crew of Scientologists' Cruise Ship
The Church of Scientology's cruise ship has returned to its home port in Curacao, where it will remain in quarantine pending the outcome of measles tests for the majority of those on board.
The vessel, the 1968-built Freewinds, was quarantined in St. Lucia for four days after a confirmed case of measles was reported to the local health authorities. One female crewmember had contracted the contagious illness, and she was reportedly in stable condition and staying in isolation on board.
None of the ship's complement were allowed to disembark in St. Lucia due to public health concerns, but the Freewinds was not detained, and she had the option of leaving port. The vessel departed St. Lucia late Thursday night and returned to Curacao Saturday.
After arrival in Curacao, local health authorities boarded to interview the crew. 41 individuals who could prove their vaccination status were allowed to disembark the vessel. The remaining 277 people on board gave blood samples, which have been sent to the Netherlands for testing (Curacao is a Dutch territory). The results are due back by Wednesday, at which point Curacao's health officials will consult with the Pan American Health Organization about next steps. Until public health authorities make a final determination, the Freewinds' passengers and crew will remain in quarantine.
No new cases of the disease have been reported on board, and the sole patient has since recovered.
“There’s nobody on the boat that did anything wrong. Somebody came from Europe and after a couple of days had the sniffles and was isolated and turned out to have measles. We’re trying to contain," said Izzy Gerstenbluth, Curacao's chief epidemiologist, in an interview with local TV news. "There is no outbreak as such of measles on the boat."
The U.S.-based Church of Scientology has owned the Freewinds (ex name Bohème) since 1986. The group uses the vessel for administering the top levels of its structured program of spiritual certification.
"The most advanced [Operating Thetan] level (New OT VIII) is exclusively entrusted to the [Freewinds]," Scientology says on its website. "To a Scientologist, boarding the Freewinds . . is the most significant spiritual accomplishment of his lifetime and brings with it the full realization of his immortality."